Kingdom of Jesus Christ founder Pastor Apollo Quiboloy

MANILA – Kingdom of Jesus Christ (KOJC) founder Pastor Apollo Quiboloy is a private individual who can defend himself in court, Malacañang said on Sunday.

Acting presidential spokesperson Martin Andanar made the remark after the United States Department of Justice (US DOJ) announced that a co-accused of Quiboloy has agreed to cooperate with US federal authorities in prosecuting him in his cases in the US.

“We reiterate that Pastor Apollo Quiboloy of the Kingdom of Jesus Christ is a private individual. As such, he can defend himself in court in light of Maria de Leon's recent action,” Andanar said in a press statement.

Malacañang has repeatedly kept its distance from Quiboloy’s cases in the US.

In November, Malacañang said President Rodrigo Duterte will execute the laws accordingly amid issues hounding his spiritual adviser.

Quiboloy, a televangelist who calls himself the “Appointed Son of God,” is Duterte’s spiritual adviser.

In a statement on Friday, Los Angeles-based paralegal Maria de Leon admitted to "preparing and filing fraudulent documents" that would grant US residency and citizenship to members of the Quiboloy-founded KOJC.

De Leon, 73-year-old owner of Liberty Legal Document Services, admitted that she participated in the conspiracy to commit marriage and visa fraud with leaders of the KOJC for about eight years.

She is among nine people, including Quiboloy, who was charged in November 2021 in a labor-trafficking scheme that used fake visas to bring church members to the US where they were forced to donate to a bogus charity called Children's Joy Foundation (CJF), based in Glendale, California.

The US DOJ said the alleged donations were used to finance church operations and the "lavish lifestyles of its leaders."

It said members who "proved successful at soliciting for the KOJC were forced to enter into sham marriages or obtain fraudulent student visas to acquire legal status in the United States so they could continue soliciting donations, the indictment alleges."

According to the US DOJ, many of the workers were "moved around the United States to solicit donations as CJF 'volunteers,' who were also called Full Time Miracle Workers."

Quiboloy, de Leon, and seven others were indicted in November 2021 for conspiracy to engage in sex trafficking by force, fraud and coercion, and sex trafficking of children.

De Leon is one of the six defendants who have been arrested and five others who appeared in a federal court in Los Angeles are scheduled to be tried on March 21, 2023.

The US DOJ believes that Quiboloy, who remains at large, is still in the Philippines. (PNA)